Chanting and More Cute Kids

Posted by SammyK on Mar 20, 2010 at 06:50 AM | Comments

Today is Saturday and I'm supposed to have a bald head by now. Unfortunately the novice monk "barber" in charge of shaving heads decided to spend a few extra days out-of-town. So I still have my full head of hair. But as soon as he comes back, it's gone!

I recently had the opportunity to witness the novice monks during their chanting exercise in the main temple. The chanting (and most of their formal ceremonies) are done in the an ancient language called Pali.

The main temple is about the size of a small rural church in the US. The far end of the temple houses a wall full of statues, photos, lights and incense. Dominating the wall full of holy nicknacks is a massive golden statue of the Buddha. It's reflection can be clearly seen in the spotless dark glossy hardwood floors.

When one enters a temple in Thailand, one must be diligent in manner. A few things to keep in mind when you enter such a room.

Take Off Your Shoes
People take off their shoes to enter a building anyway, so this is especially true for a temple.

Don't Point Your Feet At Anyone
In Thai culture, the feet are regarded as one of the nastiest parts of the body. It is considered rude to point your feet in the direction of any person. This is why when Thai people sit on the floor, they always tuck their feet under their bodies. This rule is especially true for the Buddha statue; you never want to point your feet at it.

Show Respect To The Buddha Statue
In Thai culture, it is respectful when greeting someone to "Wai" them. This means putting both hands together like you're going to pray, bring them up to your nose and subtly bow your head. This action is usually accompanied by a friendly verbal greeting.

There is a hierarchy of "Wai"ing. Kids Wai to adults, but not the other way around and laymen Wai to monks but they don't Wai back.

When one enters a temple, there is a special Wai that one must give to the Buddha statue to show deep respect. It starts with the person kneeling on the ground with both knees and sitting on their feet. The "prayer hands" are brought from the chest to the nose and then he bows to the ground. This is done three times and is ended with a final chest-to-nose action.

The "special Wai" is expected twice; once when one enters the temple and once when one leaves the temple. You can see the Wai in action in the first video above when one of the monks comes in late (about 30 seconds in).

The novice monks and laymen will do this action before a monk during special ceremony like with taking on additional precepts or ordaining as a monk.

It's Not Worship
To most Westerners familiar with Judaism, Christianity or Islam, it looks like the monks are worshiping an idol when they see them bowing down to a Buddha statue. But in reality, they are simply showing deep respect for the Buddha.

It's also a common misunderstanding to those unfamiliar with Buddhism to assume that Buddhists think Buddha is a god. This is not true. In their religion, he was just a guy. But this guy was special in that he reached "Nirvana" or "enlightenment" without anyone telling him how to do so.

According to Buddhists, anyone can reach enlightenment. And what enlightenment truly is begs a "you'll know it when you get there" type explanation.

Cut Kids Picture Time
Aside from chanting, I got to visit one of the public Thai schools on a special day. The kids were selling arts and crafts and putting on performances. I'm not trying to make a trend of closing my blogs with cute kid pictures, but I'll do it at least one more time.

I’m Sam “SammyK” Powers. Freelance PHP coder, West Coast Swing Dancer, and Linguist who loves to travel around the world.

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